1.On the basis of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, we took evidence from the Department for Education (the Department) and the National College for Teaching and Leadership (the National College). We also took evidence from the headteacher at Branston Junior Academy, Lincolnshire, a director of a school-centred initial teacher training partnership from Merseyside, the head of the school of education at Birmingham City University and the general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers.
2.The Department sets the policy framework and is ultimately accountable for achieving value for money in assuring the supply of enough teachers of the right quality. The National College is accountable for the allocation and control of training places, the distribution of grants and bursaries, accreditation of training providers, and oversight of the market for training new teachers. The cost to central government and schools of training new teachers is around £700 million each year. Using its teacher supply model and judgement the Department sets targets each year for the number of new teachers who need to be recruited and trained, both overall and for individual subjects. The National College distributed a total of £620 million in bursaries between 2010–11 and 2014–15 to incentivise applicants holding certain classes of degree in specific subjects. From within the overall £700 million each year, it plans to spend £167 million a year on these bursaries in both 2015–16 and 2016–17. Since our evidence session, the Department has published a white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, which, if implemented effectively, would make further changes to initial teacher training and may address some of the issues raised in this report.
3.The school system relies heavily on newly qualified teachers. Of the 44,900 teachers entering state-funded schools in 2014, 23,900 (53%) were newly qualified. In recent years, there have been increasing signs of teacher shortages growing. Between 2011 and 2014 the number of teachers leaving rose by 11% and, among leavers, the proportion leaving for reasons other than retirement rose from 64% to 75%. The recorded rate of vacancies in state-funded schools has doubled between 2011 and 2014 from 0.5% to 1.2% of the workforce, which is likely to be an underestimate of the problems schools face. Other challenges that schools face are also growing. For example, secondary school numbers are forecast to rise by 9% (276,000) between 2014–15 and 2019–20 and will increase further after that. Changes to the curriculum, notably the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, will increase the demand for teachers in shortage subject like physics and mathematics.
4.The Department has fallen short of its target to fill teacher training places for the last four years. Between 2012–13 and 2014–15 targets were missed by an increasing margin: 528 (1%) in 2012–13; 1,691 (5%) in 2013–14; and 3,201 (9%) in 2014–15. In 2015–16 the Department altered its target to include Teach First but exclude undergraduates. It missed its overall target by 1,639 (6%). The Department told us that 2015–16 had been “a very tough year” for recruiting graduates. It explained that the overall number of graduates had fallen and that other employers were recruiting more graduates, leading to a mismatch between the demand for teachers in particular subjects and the people available to recruit.
5.The Department’s ability to recruit sufficient trainees varies by subject. In 2015–16, the Department missed its recruitment targets in 14 out of 17 secondary subjects. It told us that it had particular concerns about recruitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. For example, the National College told us that it has been recruiting around one in five maths graduates and that, to some extent, the demand for maths teachers outstrips the available supply, given the competition from other employers in the market. The Department told us that this was also its experience for physics. The National Association of Headteachers said that starting salaries for teachers had gradually fallen behind what some people (particularly those holding degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics) could earn in other sectors. For example, it highlighted that an accountant could start on £30,000, whereas a teacher’s salary outside London was £22,000. Demand for additional teachers in particular subjects is also influenced by the Department’s introduction of the English Baccalaureate curriculum in which, from 2020, all pupils will be expected to sit GCSEs in English, history or geography, science, mathematics and a language. The National College told us that it requires about two years’ advance notice to plan for policy and curriculum changes in order to make sure there are sufficient teachers being recruited and trained through the system.
6.The Department has a teacher supply model to identify how many teachers it needs to train and explained that its new version of the model for 2015–16 had produced “significantly” different numbers of teachers required to be trained. This change caused the Department to raise its targets and although the number of trainees recruited to start training in 2015–16 increased from the previous year the number did not rise by enough to hit those higher targets. The National Audit Office found that the model did not account for previous years’ missed targets, meaning that even the scale of the challenge in 2015–16 may have been understated. Additionally, it found that the Department had not independently verified the model’s accuracy. Providers told us that they felt that the model did not reflect or capture the regional differences that people experience on the ground. The National College said the model had been published for the last two years and, to assess the model’s accuracy, it had established an expert group of external experts to provide advice. When asked, the National College confirmed that it had no plans to have the model independently validated.
7.The Department told us that its main response to trainee shortages was its school-led programme, School Direct. It believes that School Direct allows school leaders to react much more effectively to local circumstances than traditional higher education institutions. However, 57% of state-funded schools are not currently participating in School Direct and those schools that do not participate are disproportionately primary schools in rural areas and secondary schools in areas of high deprivation.
8.The National Audit Office found that the Department had a weak understanding of the extent of local teacher supply shortages and whether they were being resolved locally. We asked the Department and the National College about the information they collect in order to understand where and how many teachers are needed. The Department’s primary data source is the national school workforce census every November. The Department takes some level of reassurance from these national figures. For example, there has been little change in pupil teacher ratios over the last eight years: there were 21.6 pupils to every teacher in primary schools in 2008 compared to 21.0 in 2014, and 16.2 pupils to every teacher in secondary schools in 2008 compared to 15.8 in 2014. The Department told us that the national figures provided an average picture across the country but agreed that there were “clearly some issues at a local or individual school level, as there are in individual subjects”. The Department explained to us that it looks at a regional breakdown of the school workforce census to examine, for example, vacancy rates. However, it noted that even the regional picture “masks within it an awful lot of variation between individual local authorities”. The Department accepted the challenge from the National Audit Office that it needs to make better use of local and regional data and explained that for the first time it is able to use a teacher’s unique teacher number to track those who trained in 2013–14 and subsequently went on to teach in 2014–15.
9.Almost 84% of school leaders reported in a recent Association of School and College Leaders survey that they were experiencing unprecedented challenges in recruiting teachers. Some 45% responded that recruitment in the most recent year was “much more difficult” than last year and 39% said it was “more difficult”. The National College explained that one of the ways it informs its understanding of the experience of individual schools is by talking to the schools involved in the School Direct Programme. Again, this limitation on the kinds of schools it speaks to (in this instance an entirely self-imposed limitation) is concerning given that some 11,000 (57%) schools are currently not involved in School Direct and thus, as established, disproportionately primary schools in rural areas and secondary schools in disadvantaged areas. A headteacher from Lincolnshire highlighted to us that it was these schools that struggled to recruit good teachers.
10.We were concerned about the role that recruitment agencies now play in the employment of recently qualified teachers, as well as for recruitment more generally. The National Association of Headteachers highlighted to us that a growing number of recently qualified teachers go to an agency to find a teaching post, as opposed to applying direct to a school, which adds significant recruitment cost to schools. The Department told us that it was aware of the rise in recently qualified teachers using agencies and confirmed that spending on agencies by schools had gone up. However, it noted that there were instances where it considered it “perfectly reasonable” for schools to use recruitment agencies. The Department told us that it would not cap agency fees but that schools’ spending on agencies was an issue it plans to look at in future as part of its work on school efficiency.
11.The availability of initial teacher training places across England varies significantly, ranging from 294 trainees for every 100,000 pupils in the East of England to 547 in the North West. We asked the Department about the extent to which this affected the availability of teachers in schools locally. The Department explained that the disparity was largely a result of the historically uneven distribution of universities, where 57% of new trainees started their training in 2015–16. The National Association of Headteachers told us that the teacher labour market was not national but locally fragmented and that teachers have not tended to move long distances to take up new teaching posts. Our headteacher witness described to us how in her experience, schools in rural and coastal areas predominantly recruited applicants from the local area. The Department told us that School Direct provided an opportunity to address this variation, but only if schools in areas where there were fewer training places came forward to be involved in running teacher training. The National College described to us how it targets specific parts of the country in order to try to encourage schools to get involved in School Direct. It told us that while it had had some success in market towns, there was more to do elsewhere. It also acknowledged that some schools participating in School Direct in rural areas had struggled to recruit enough trainees.
12.The Department and National College have grown school-led training, in line with policy. There are now eight routes into teaching, and in five years the number of school-centred providers has increased from 56 to 155, with the number of lead schools in School Direct growing from zero to 841. The Department told us that it had created such a range of different routes for training new teachers in order to suit different groups of people. For example, people with experience who want to change careers may be attracted to a training route where they are paid a salary. The National Audit Office found that most schools and providers it visited found the range of routes to be confusing both for applicants and providers and that there was insufficient information for potential applicants about what was available in their area, the quality of training and the cost. The headteacher who gave evidence to us described how different routes have slightly different nuances which she did not understand and that the number of routes was indeed confusing for students. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Association of School and College Leaders have further highlighted the confusion about routes to us, adding that a long and complex application process could also be a disincentive to potential candidates. Universities UK stated that its members would like greater clarity for potential applicants around entry requirements, the need for qualified teacher status and the range of employment bodies in operation.
13.To address the confusion the National College explained that for anyone with an interest in teaching there was the “Get Into Teaching” website, which was intended to be a kind of one-stop shop. The website covers teacher training in two categories, school-led and university-led, and offers advice to applicants on how to access training depending on their preferences. The National College also described the work it does with providers to attract recruits into teaching, in particular the many regional, and a small number of national, “Train to Teach” events it runs. The National College acknowledged that it had not got the range of options right yet and that there was more to do, in particular to make clear the availability of different types of training programme in particular areas.
2 , paras 1, 4, 1.13–1.16
3 , para 2.11 and Figure 14
5 , paras 1.2, 1.4–1.10
6 ; , paras 12, 13, 2.2–2.3, Figure 10
8 ; , paras 13, 2.3, Figure 10
9 ; , para 1.10
11 , para 1.18
12 ; , para 1.12
15 ; , para 3.12
16 , para 21
18 , para 1.5
20 Association of School and College Leaders , para 4
21 , , para 3.12
25 ; , Figure 1, Figure 11
29 ; , para 3.2 and figure 16
30 , paras 18, 3.21–3.25
32 Association of School and College Leaders’ , para 14; Association of teachers and Lecturers , para 13; Universities UK para 6
2 June 2016